Archive for June, 2014

Another Graduation Gift

June 10, 2014

Someone asked me recently what skills or knowledge might be the most useful for today’s graduate.  And I’ve been thinking, starting with what do I wish I had known?  Here is my reflection for you new grads.

Grade point average?  Interesting for a while, but then you grow up.

Volunteer activity?  Sure, it says something good about you, but is it related to the job?

Hard work?  Yes! I hope your interview stories are filled with challenges you have overcome.

Examples might sound like this:

I started my beginning Spanish class with a bad attitude.  I have been told that no one in our family can do languages.  But I liked the teacher and I agreed with the goal of being a better world citizen.  So I bought a Spanish  CD and started listening. Yes, it was hard.  Yes, I probably sounded foolish.  I made friends with a girl from Central America who was learning English.  We agreed to have lunch together and just name things we were eating.  And it helped!  I’ll never be a world-class language specialist, but now I know what it takes to learn something new.  It starts with shedding a bad attitude.  It continues with being resourceful.  And it ends with success.  That B in Spanish is something I really earned, and I will get better.  I’m not stopping.

I wanted to take an advanced art history class because I had heard great things about the professor.  But first, there was this pesky requirement of a basic art class.  And yes, you occasionally had to draw something.  I can’t draw!  Really!  I took the course, and as predicted, got a really low grade on the first assignment (drawing a tree on campus).  Kindergarteners could have done better than I did.  So I made an appointment, went to see the teacher, and told him that my drawing did not look like it, but I had really, really worked.  I just didn’t know how to do better.  I told him why I was taking the class, that I would do well in every aspect except the sketchy stuff.  He smiled and listened.  He told me to focus on some little aspect and capture a few details.  I really did not think much had been accomplished, but my grades got better. I’m still not an artist, but what I learned was to ask for help.  People are glad to offer a suggestion, and they do take note of your effort.  

And here is one further suggestion:  If you are declaring yourself a hard worker, how about mentioning something that is ongoing?

Although my classes have ended, I am committed to maintaining and enhancing my computer skills.  I recently found a free online course in Microsoft Office, which will keep my skills current and competitive. (Try checking out the free offering at

Wow! While your classmates are lounging at the beach in recovery mode, you have been upgrading your skills!

Hard work triumphs over privilege, opportunity, or special talent in success on many jobs.  So graduates, as you prepare for your job search, think about your challenges and how you continue to address them to achieve a measure of success.